The word ‘enchilada’ comes from the Spanish verb enchilar, meaning ‘to season with chile.’ My meandering online research on enchiladas (most fun I’ve had all day) surfaced a recent issue of Latino Perspectives magazine, which included a fascinating overview of the many types of enchiladas found throughout Mexico. For example, enchiladas tapatias from Jalisco are stuffed with avocado, queso fresco and chile strips, and topped with a chile cream tomato sauce. In San Luis Potosi, there is a version called enchiladas potosinas in which cheese is mixed directly into the cornmeal and fried. In the Yucatan, you’ll find an enchilada dish called papadzules, where tortillas are filled with hardboiled eggs and topped with both pumpkin seed and chile sauces. Regional variations on Mexico’s beloved enchiladas are numerous and diverse, so this vegan version drenched in chile sauce seems appropriate.
My vegan enchiladas recipe is full-flavored, but without the grease bomb effect you associate with enchiladas outside of Mexico. Rather than going with a more traditional spinach, beans or faux meat filling, I decided to use hearty kale, thickly-cut portobello mushrooms, and a sprinkling of tofu which together have enough presence to stand up to the sauteing, baking and robust sauce. For the wrapper, I only had whole wheat wraps on hand, which actually worked just fine, but corn tortillas are ideal.
I made an enchilada sauce (arguably the most important component of the dish) based on a recipe from the Happy Herbivore Cookbook, which came out beautifully. The ‘secret’ ingredient is unsweetened cocoa powder which gives it a rich, mole-like flavor, but with a much more manageable ingredient list.
Vegan Enchiladas Recipe
- 3 t olive oil
- 1 head fresh kale, chopped
- 5 portobello mushroom caps, sliced
- ½ red onion, medium dice (about ½ cup)
- ½ block of extra firm tofu (7 oz), drained and crumbled
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 t chili powder
- ½ c fresh medium roasted green chiles, chopped (if these are not available, canned is perfectly fine)
- ½ t salt, or to taste
- 12 small corn or flour tortillas (or 6 large)
- 1 c Daiya cheese shreds, divided in half
- 1 15-ounce can enchilada sauce or use the Happy Herbivore recipe
- Optional garnish: chopped scallions, sliced black olives, plain soy yogurt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large saute pan, heat oil. Add red onion, garlic and chili powder and cook 1-2 minutes. Stir in green chiles and saute an additional 2 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and kale. Cover pan for 6-8 minutes, letting the vegetables cook.
- Remove lid and stir in tofu and a ¼ cup of the enchilada sauce. Depending on the saltiness of the sauce, you may want to add some or all of the salt here. Saute another 5 minutes.
- Lightly coat the bottom of your baking dish with ¼ cup of enchilada sauce. One at a time, fill each tortilla with ½ to ¾ cup of the kale mixture, depending on the size of the tortillas, and a sprinkle of Daiya cheese shreds. (You should use a total of ½ cup of the Daiya inside the the enchiladas). Roll up each one and set snugly in the baking dish. Pour ½ cup of sauce over the top so that tortillas are covered. (Do not feel like you need to use all of the sauce). Top with remaining ½ cup of Daiya cheese. Place in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let sit a few minutes before digging in. Garnish with chopped scallions, sliced black olives or plain soy yogurt, if you like.